52 Weeks of Canadian Gaming - Week 11
Fight Night Round 3
Release Date: February 20, 2006
Developer: EA Canada
ESRB Rating: Teen
Reviewed by: Brian Wray
The past month has proven quite the challenge when trying to keep my New Year’s resolution to play a different Canadian developed game each week of 2009. Now with my Florida vacation done, and the worst of the renovations behind me, it should be smooth sailing and time to get back to the business of gaming. After having been primed and then disappointed with the “boxing” game FaceBreakers, I was looking forward to a real boxing title with Fight Night Round 3.
I always like boxing. It is one of those sports that requires not only strength, speed and stamina, but also cunning and intelligence. Legendary boxers used their smarts to outbox larger and stronger opponents. Fight Night Round 3 looks to capture the feel and excitement of boxing with an intuitive control set, great graphics and real life physics. The game ships with 26 boxers based on real life counterparts such as Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard, Evander Holyfield, Ray Jones Jr, Oscar De La Hoya and Joe Frazier just to name a few.
The game offers a few different game modes. Players can choose to simply fight a match by selecting a his/her boxer and opponent. Another option, similar to the simple fight, is the ESPN Classic boxing matches. In this game mode, players can choose from several “classic” rivalries such as Ali vs Frazier or Jones Jr vs Hopkins. Important to note that the ESPN Classics fights are based on existing rivalries, not existing fights. Fights can also be played over Xbox Live.
The most popular game mode will be the career mode which allows gamers to create a new boxer, or use an existing boxer, and to rise from a bottom ranked fighter to the top of the boxing world. I say “his” career as Fight Night Round 3 is a men’s only club at this time, there are no female boxers and no option to create any. In career mode, players will make decisions on which matches to sign, what equipment to purchase (some equipment will give bonuses to your boxers stats) and the type of training performed before fights. While this may sound complex, there actually is not all that much thought process that needs to be done to accomplish all these tasks. The choice of match to sign will vary only in the payoff for winning the fight and not affect the actual career path of the fighter. The most difficult choice that will need to be made is in the type or training performed before every fight. There are four types of pre-fight training to choose from, each type of training will raise several stats while lowering a few others. For example weight training will raise power, but lower speed (among others). Sparring will keep all stats at their current level.
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Indifferent of the game mode selected, once the boxing match begins, the game comes down to pure boxing and boxing is simply a series of punches, blocks and counter-punches, but it is the control of those punches and blocks that will make the difference between winning and losing so having precise responsive controls is of the utmost of importance. I am very pleased to say that this was a area that the developers obviously perfected. The game controls take a short while to get used to but if you played NHL08 or 09 you will feel right at home. The left analog stick moves the boxer, while the right analog stick delivers the blows. Pressing upper left or right on the right analog stick will deliver jabs or straight punches (depending if the fighter is a righty or lefty) while pressing left or right and returning to the top in a quarter circle will deliver hooks. Other combinations of the right analog stick will perform more powerful punches that can change the course of a match in an instant. Holding the left trigger will allow the boxer to lean in or out of punches while the right trigger will bring up his block (then controlled by the right analog stick). There are buttons assigned to cling and perform illegal moves. In between rounds, gamers will take on the job of being the cut man responsible for controlling swelling and cuts before they become a problem. The task of cauterizing and cleaning up cuts and reducing swelling is performed by moving the right analog stick in a left-to-right semi-circle in sync with the onscreen representation. If gamers prefer pressing buttons, that option is also available. In fact there are 6 different controller configuration that should satisfy all gamer types. All the classic boxer moves are here with the exception of ear biting.
When Fight Night Round 3 was released it was hailed as the first true “next-gen” title. The game featured “photo realistic” graphics and therefore required no type of health or stamina bars as gamers could visually see the condition of a fighter in the ring without the need of any type of heads up display. For the most part this is true. A boxer's physical appearance will deteriorate as a match goes on and as he absorbs more and more punches. Swollen eyes and lips, bleeding cuts, body covered in sweat and sagging arms are all indication of a fighter’s physical wellness. Of course if a gamer prefers health and stamina bars, the option is available to be turned on.
Fight Night Round 3 has just celebrated it’s 3rd birthday and while it was a technological marvel when launched, the game is starting to show it’s age. Everything about the game feels like it was rushed to the market to capitalize on it’s superior graphics. The selection of available boxers is very limited. Where are legendary boxers such as George Forman, Joe Louis, Lennox Lewis or Mike Tyson? Where are all the great Canadian boxers such as Yvon Durelle, George Chuvalo and Larry Gains? Where are all the great female (or any female) boxers? The boxing arenas are also extremely limited with only 3 venues available at the start, and 3 more unlocked during career mode.
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The career mode is also very limited and extremely linear. The choice of matches to sign actually make no difference to a boxers career were the only possible outcome (granted if you win) is to win the big championship. What if a gamer's goal is not to win a championship, but to go for a high paying pay-per-view fight instead?
The AI in Fight Night is also a bit lacking. To see how limited the AI is, just let two boxers battle it out in an ESPN Classic fight. I decided to just sit back and enjoy a fight between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier. The virtual Frazier demolished the virtual Ali in only 6 rounds accumulating 4 knockdowns during the fight. Now in real life, Frazier beat Ali once in their 3 encounters and that was by decision. I am not saying that Frazier could never beat Ali in 6 rounds (he defeated many opponents is less) but the virtual fighters, while looking like their real life counterparts, did not fight like their real life counterparts. Ali was famous for dancing around the ring while using his great hand speed to wear down his opponents with a series of well placed jabs and his rope-a-dope technique, while the virtual Ali decided to fight a classic slobber knocker.
The game also took in-game advertising to shameful new levels. I can accept that there is a Dodge Tournament as tournaments often take on the name of their financial sponsors, but why is “ The King”, from the Burger King commercials, in the game. It would be one thing if he was only a background character during the BK championship, but he is available for hire as a personal manager. Now I would never want a glorified clown in my corner, but those nasty developers knew this so to motivate gamers to pick his “Hierarchyness”, they opted to make his services free and provided him with a decent stat boost to boxers. Personally, I would ratter pay 1 million virtual loonies instead of having a Ronald McDonald wannabe at my ringside.
Fight Night Round 3 may not get everything right, but it got enough right to make the game an exceptional title that just about anyone can enjoy, be you a boxing aficionado or not. Because even 3 years after it was released, the game is still fun.
PS/ There is something so wrong about those anorexic ring girls.